Author Mary Roach enjoys exploring the unexplored, the odd, out right weird, and amusing details of events that are everyday (well her space travel book, Packing for Mars, may not cover everyday life, but it does look at space travel in a way that you won’t find in most histories). Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers looks at the adventures a body can have once it is dead.
Bodies can be donated to science and used in research for car crashes (dummies can only tell us so much), provide practice for plastic surgeons, and used in anatomy labs for future medical professionals. Roach also covers organ donation, cultural and historical definitions of death and the soul, and an overview of death and the use of cadavers historically (at one point in a doctor suggested systematic tongue pulling for several hours to ensure that a person was truly dead). Other, slightly less known options include ecological burial – at least in Sweden (which is more or less turning your body into fertilizer) and plastination, which is a way to preserve actual bodies for education (at the time of this book’s publication The Body Worlds exhibit was not around, but now you can check it out in action the next time it’s in Chicago).
While descriptions can be blunt and irreverent (although the overall book I found to be respectful) it was a fascinating, amusing, and thoughtful book to listen to.